According to Kirby Ferguson of Everything is a Remix, he states "Creation requires influence. Everything we make is a remix of existing creations, our lives, and the lives of others".

From Romeo and Juliet to Macbeth, Shakespeare created worlds of stories that continues to influence art today. What led the renowned playwright to pen these stories? Many of the most celebrated Shakespearean plays can be found in stories before the playwright's time. The act of remixing is to take pieces of art and combing them to a new form. I believe that remixing is a concept used before digital technologies existed and that Shakespeare was a pioneer of famously pioneering the art of remixing.

Romeo & Juliet

A relationship doomed to fail was nothing new. Tales of ill-fated lovers can be traced to Pyramus and Thisbe from Roman poet Ovid in his Metamorphoses,first published in 8 AD, which would later be directly referenced in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Shakespeare's primary source was a narrative poem called The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, published in 1562 by Arthur Brooke.


Precursors to Hamlet can be found throughout history. Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum ("Deeds of the Danes"), which tells the legend of Amleth has been identified as the main source of inspiration. Some have speculated that Shakespeare lifted the story from Icelandic and Roman legends, and a lost play called Ur-Hamlet.

King Lear

While based on King Leir of Britain, Shakespeare used Raphael Holinshed's The Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande as his primary source of inspiration. Among other possible sources of inspiration, the play also borrows from a common folk tale of a father rejecting the love from his youngest daughter.


Shakespeare took inspiration from the North Berwick Witch Trials of 1590. Both the play and trial took place in Scotland and the witches' conduct mimics that of those in the trial. Shakespeare also borrowed elements from Holinshed's Chronicles, a story chronicling a man who deals with witches and has a powerful and manipulative wife. 

The fact that Shakespearean plays are not wholly original works does not diminish Shakespeare's ability to write compelling stories. The concept of creating something that is new and original is overrated. Taking inspiration to create art can still be meaningful. What should matter is if the work is, in its own right, good.